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Full text of "My country and my people"

WOMAN'S  LIFE                       155
Sometimes an actual romance developed, as with Western men and their mistresses. The story of Tung Hsiaowan ancl Mao Pichiang, from the difficulties of their first meeting to their short-lived, blissful wedded life, reads in no way differently from any other romance. There were romances with happy and unhappy endings. While Li Hsiangchiin ended up in a monastery, Ku Hengp'o and Liu Jushih ended up as grandes dames in rich official families, to the envy and admiration of their generation.
The courtesan, therefore, taught many Chinese romantic love, as the Chinese wife taught them a more earthly, real love. Sometimes the situation was actually confusing, and Tu Mu, who led a wild life for ten years, came back to his old wife after an awakening. Sometimes, too, the chastity of the courtesan was amazing, as in the case of Tu Shihniang. Besides, * she carried on the musical tradition of the country, whigfef without her would have died off. She was more cultivated, more independent, and more at home in men's society than were the family women; in fact, she was the emancipated lady in ancient China. Her influence over high officials often gave her a measure of political influence, for sometimes it was in her house that political appointments were interceded for and decided upon.
A really deserving courtesan often became a concubine or mistress, as did practically all the above-mentioned women. Concubinage is as old as China itself, and the problem behind concubinage is as old as monogamy. When the marriage is unhappy the Oriental solves it by going to the sing-song girl or taking a concubine, while the Occidental solves it by keeping a mistress or having occasional escapades. The modes of social behaviour are different, while the fundamental problems are curiously the same. What makes a difference is the social attitude, especially that of women, toward such behaviour. Chinese take mistresses with public consent, while Westerners have the decency not to talk about it.
The insistence on male progeny also greatly encouraged concubinage. Some Chinese wives actually pleaded with their husbands to take concubines* when they themselves had failed to produce a son. The laws of the Ming Dynasty officially